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Brakes - Interview

  by Helen Tipping

published: 22 / 11 / 2006

Brakes - Interview


Country punk Brighton/Glasgow hybrid Brakes have released much acclaim for their second album, 'The Beatific Visions'. Helen Tipping speaks to frontman Eamon Hamilton about its heavy political nature and its recording in Nashville

Brakes are based in Brighton and Glasgow. They are Eamon Hamilton (guitar and vocals), Tom White (guitar), Marc Beatty (bass) and Alex White (drums). All the band members have been in other bands before forming Brakes, with Eamon having been in British Sea Power, Tom and Alex still being part of Electric Soft Parade and Marc still playing in the Tenderfoot. They have been together as Brakes since 2002, performing as often as they can and releasing a single in 2004, 'Pick up The Phone', and their debut album 'Give Blood' in 2005. On that album, their country-punk style included political and personal lyrics, as well as Johnny Cash covers. Their just released second album, 'The Beatific Visions', was recorded in a shorter timescale, but with similar subject matter - global politics, love, romance, the everyday things that affect us all.... Eamon Hamilton took time out before a gig in November at Boddington's Brewery in Manchester to speak to Pennyblackmusic outside in the freezing cold, with only a cup of tea to get us through. PB : Are you touring at the moment or is this a one off gig? EH : We're doing a few one off shows, The Killers have invited us to support them so we're going to start with them in about a week, around Europe and the UK. PB : How do you think you will find it playing with the Killers ? They've sold out really quickly. EH : Yeah, it should be good. Hopefully people will get there early and get to see us. Yeah, it should be great. They're smallish venues for the Killers so it'll be really good. They're nice guys and they play without backing tracks as well which I think is admirable for a band of their size. PB : You have toured recently with both Belle and Sebastian and the Editors. Did you enjoy that ? EH : Belle and Sebastian were brilliant. Their rhythm section's crazy. They're real party monsters. You wouldn't think it but they are. They're big soul heads, you know. They really like their Northern Soul. Yeah, yeah it was great and the Editors was just really good fun. A lot of the tour with them was European dates. We were following their big tour bus in our little Transit van! It was really good. PB : Going back to Brakes, you've all been in other successful bands before and some of you still are. How have you found balancing the responsibilities there? EH : I had to leave British Sea Power in the end just because I did nearly 300 gigs in 2005 and it just almost killed me. Brakes were offered the Belle and Sebastian and Editors tours at the start of the year. I didn't really want to take all that time away from British Sea Power so that's why I left. But Electric Soft Parade are releasing an album soon. They're going strong and the Tenderfoot are doing really well. PB : That's good, Brakes seemed to be a kind of a side project but it seems like a lot more now. At what point did you find it became serious? Was that when you started the touring? EH : I suppose so. We realised that we were a good band and we were making music that we wanted to hear, you know. We've been going for four years now. PB : Do you find yourself writing for different formats? Say it's a Brakes song rather than when you were with other bands? EH : Well, I never really wrote for British Sea Power, so I write all the Brakes' stuff really, although we split everything four ways. PB : Listening to the new album, there's quite diverse styles on there so I wasn't sure whether that was down to input from all of you or whether you're picking up on different styles? EH : Oh yeah, when I start playing guitar it depends what comes out and I write a song around it. PB : Marc moved to Glasgow recently. Does that work out okay with the rest of you living in Brighton ? EH : Tom lives up in Glasgow most of the time as well, so it's only Alex and I that have stayed kicking round Brighton. You spend so long on the road with each another that when you get back home... . But whenever everyone's back we all go out together, but, yeah, it's fine. We know our songs well enough. PB : On the new album the lyrics move between the personal and the political. Are you interested in politics or is it when things happen that you feel you need to write about it? EH : It's more of a reaction to what's going on, what you read in the news. You can't really escape politics, can you ? It's one of those things - it governs your life. So yeah, I am affected by it and lyrically I kind of reflect that. PB : On some of the tracks on the album you come across as somewhat anti religion as well EH : It's the structure really and the fact that a lot of people at the moment seem to be using the concept of God as an excuse to be inhuman towards one another, whereas I come instead from a humanist background. People should appreciate that they're alive at the moment and try to do the best that they can whilst they're alive rather than killing each other in the hope that you'll get bonus points in heaven. None of us really know if heaven exists. What we do know exists is the fact that we're alive at the moment. PB : You recorded 'The Beatific Visions' in Nashville which is in the heart of the Bible Belt. Did that consolidate those feelings at all? EH : There's quite a few stickers on bumpers and stuff about abortion and things like that. You get a sense that there's some proper right wing freaks out here, but everyone that we were hanging around with they were just all into music. We got there and were straight into music and it was like a musician's dream really with all these people that had played on loads of records swapping riffs and chords with us. Like all on porches outside on rocking chairs, so it was really nice. PB : The album features David Briggs who played with Elvis. How did he get involved? EH : He owned a studio out there. He was in the original Marshall Scholes band then moved to Nashville and recorded with everyone, Sammy Davis Jnr, Johnny Cash, loads of people, and then opened up his studios. So he ran the studio that we were in. He hadn't played for three years so I offered him a tenner to play on our record and he did. Our engineer was like, "Oh my God, he hasn't played in three years!" We were quite flattered really. He said they were good songs. PB : That's excellent. Did he have any good stories about Elvis at all? EH : It was mostly about the Beatles actually. He went to George Harrison's mansion and discovered a bunch of rooms that George Harrison didn't even know about. He had about three days to write a score for The National Philharmonic to play on a record whilst he was there. PB : Do you feel that recording in America and working with an American producer and muscians influenced the music at all? EH : Ah well, the music had already been written over here. I think the heat influenced us a lot. It got us riled up and got us going! We had a great time out there. PB : Were you touring while you were over there? EH : We did a couple of shows there, just to get out of the studio. It can get a bit claustrophobic sometimes. We played a basement in a record store and had a great time. Kings of Leon were there and it was just a really nice feel. PB : Did you go down alright over there? EH : Yeah amazing. Really good. We played 'Jackson'. We do a cover version of the Johnny Cash tune. This guy came up after the gig saying, "Hey. it takes a lot of balls to play 'Jackson' in Nashville, to do a Johnny Cash cover in Nashville, but you guys nailed it." That was really great. PB : So are you planning on going back at all? EH : Yeah hopefully. First Europe and the UK, but I think we're going to go back to America next year which should be great. After the Killers tour we'll be doing our own headlining tour, no it's straight to Spain where we're supporting a band called the Surfing Bitches They're a massive Spanish band who split up in the 90's and they've just got together for a few gigs. So it'll be great playing with a Spanish band. PB : Have you heard anything by them? EH : No, I haven't actually, but I'm really looking forward to it. Then we'll come back and do our own headlining tour in late November early December. PB : What do you think of this venue? EH: It's very big - enormous, but we'll try and get a good atmosphere going. It should be cool. Anyway, I'm going to run and grab a beer if that's Okay. PB : Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Thank you for your time. More information about Brakes can be found at www.brakesbrakesbrakes.com

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Brakes - Interview

Brakes - Interview

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Brakes - Interview

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